Reported STD cases surged in late 2020 after drop early in pandemic, data suggest

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Reports of sexually transmitted diseases dropped in the early months of the pandemic but saw a resurgence toward the end of 2020, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC’s 2020 STD Surveillance Report, cases of gonorrhea and syphilis were up 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively, at the end of 2020 when compared to 2019. However, cases of chlamydia in 2020 dropped by 13 percent when compared to the previous year.

The decline in reported cases most likely had to do with a decrease in STD screenings and underdiagnoses instead of an actual drop in infections, the CDC noted.

Other factors that likely contributed to the drop in reports were the decrease of in-person health care services, public health workers focusing more on COVID-19 than STDs, lack of health insurance coverage due to unemployment and telemedicine services not catching some infections.

“The COVID-19 pandemic put enormous pressure on an already strained public health infrastructure,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

“There were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still, but STDs weren’t. The unrelenting momentum of the STD epidemic continued even as STD prevention services were disrupted,” Mermin said.

Before the start of the pandemic, the number of reported STDs in the U.S. had reached all-time highs for six consecutive years in a row. In 2019, 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported.

This report from the CDC aligns with a survey released by the Census Bureau last year that found the pandemic impacted health care trends. Before the pandemic, laboratory testing and doctor visits were usually linked together, but these two trends diverged throughout 2020 and 2021.

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus COVID-19 sexually transmitted diseases STD

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